Final Bach Motet workshop

Komm, Jesu, komm

On Saturday we held the final workshop in our Bach Motet series which started back in January. J.S.Bach wrote 6 motets, all with just organ continuo accompaniment. Most were written to be sung at a specific funeral, but that’s not to suggest that they are in any way funereal! Most are bright and exciting. Four are for 8 voices; one is for 5 voices and just Lobet den Herrn is for 4 voices (which is also the only one with an independently written organ part). With workshops every other week in January, Feb and March, we just got Jesu, meine Freude in before lockdown and had to postpone Komm, Jesu, komm. So on Saturday, 32 singers came together to finish the job! All socially distanced you understand. Singing in a choir where every chorister is 2 meters apart has proved to be a different experience. I’ve had several comments now, that singers are beginning to get used to it, that they can hear their own voice and appreciate the other voices more. It certainly makes singers be more independent, although that’s not so good for those who need the support of others.

If you’d like to listen to Komm, Jesu, komm which is my favourite (I think) have a listen to this performance. We didn’t quite achieve this standard on Saturday, but we didn’t do a bad job.

Busy weekend

Since giving up the teaching job four years ago, weekends have become my busy time. My neighbours think I work all the time, but don’t realise that I’m at home much of the week. Sundays in particular can be hectic. So having run the workshop on Saturday, my Sunday begins with playing for the 9am Mass at St Pancras RC church in Lewes. Then I stroll down the road to play for the 10.30 Mass at St Michael’s. In recent times I’ve had to play at various points where previously a choir would have sung. Each week I’ll play several pieces and also do a fair amount of improvisation, doodling until the priest gets into position.

This Sunday just gone, after St.Michaels’ service, I stayed on to rehearse with soprano, Ruth Kerr – practising for our recital series (more about that later). And then I went to take another workshop, this time for New Sussex Opera. Some of you might be surprised that I’m involved in opera but I became Chorus Master about a year ago, having played for some of their rehearsals, and it’s been a treat for me. They sing very robustly and I’m really enjoying my involvement. Their next production (actually postponed from earlier this year) will be Handel: Acis and Galatea for which I will be MD. When eventually the production comes off, we have some lovely young solo singers lined up, and a young group of 6 players – all Baroque specialists – so it will be very exciting. Acis and Galatea is a really beautiful short opera.

So, a busy weekend and now, having had my Community Choir rehearsal on Monday evening, I’ve nothing else in the diary until next Sunday.

Recitals with Ruth Kerr

But I’ve got lots of practice to do. Ruth Kerr and I are doing 3 separate recitals in November and December. Ruth has a wonderful voice which is too rarely heard in Lewes. She is MD of the Paddock Singers and Brighton Chamber Choir; teaches singing; and is a busy examiner for the Associated Board (ABRSM). She’s also an excellent pianist, so in our recitals we are able to do a mix of songs and piano duets. Numbers are limited, so if you want tickets, don’t hang about.

Lastly, before I go. I was sent a link by my friend Elspeth Barnett (Lewes Singers) to an interview with Harry Christophers (Director of The Sixteen). It’s the best part of an hour long, but it’s well worth it. He’s interviewed by Elin Manahan Thomas (Soprano) for the Sevenoaks Literary Festival, and I found it really fascinating. Harry comes across as a really nice man, and he says that he likes to trust his singers and allow them to bring their own skills and experience to their performance, rather than imposing his own view all the time.

Keep well.


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